Dimension Films // 2000 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // April 19th, 2001
For Vengeance, For Justice, For Love, For As Many Sequels As The World Will Pay For.
The Crow was a dark gothic wonder, a take on a comic book that became a cult classic despite gaffes in the story. That first success owed a great deal to the performance and presence of Brandon Lee, and his tragic death during filming seemingly ended any chances for a sequel. However, where there is a will and a buck to be made, never underestimate the power of Hollywood to beat a dead horse into a dead horse-like paste, and there was a sequel, the horrid City of Angels. Even after this "minor setback," everybody knows that nothing is better than another sequel, so we get The Crow: Salvation, the third take on the franchise. Though it's better than the last film, that's a bit like saying Friday the 13th: Part 9 is better than Friday the 13th: Part 8. Save us from any more Crow movies. That said, fans of the franchise will likely be happy with the DVD.
Alex Corvis (Eric Mabius) is about to be executed for the stabbing death of his girlfriend Lauren; a crime to which he professes innocence to his last breath. The electric chair was not kind to what was left of him, and when the crow comes to bring him back to the land of the living, the scars left behind look suspiciously like the markings worn by previous resurrected angels of vengeance. Angels of vengeance are what the crow brings back; people wrongly killed who need to avenge the death of yet another victim. In this case the real killers are crooked police officers, led by their captain, who has special knowledge of the crow and his powers. Will Alex get to stop these terrible men? Can Kirsten Dunst save this sewer of a film? Please, God, make the hurting stop.
Technically speaking, this film got a theatrical run. In exactly one theater, before it was pulled to be a direct-to-video vehicle. It had a bigger budget than the first sequel, and production values are higher as well, though it still falls short of the original. Some of the sets have the dark, gothic feel we remember, especially the death chamber where Alex Corvis meets his fate. Stylistically, it is likewise similar to, but ultimately inferior to the first, yet superior to the sequel. Camera tricks that the makers call "crow vision" are still here, but changed to a visual wave distortion that lets us know we're seeing what the bird sees. Those great shots that seemingly fly through and around the buildings and streets of the city are still there. That visual component is still the best part of the film, though again not as compelling as in the original. For those who watch these films for the explosions, there are a couple of doozies this time around.
The supporting cast isn't too bad, with William Atherton (Ghostbusters) as the victim's father and Kirsten Dunst as his surviving daughter, who comes to accept Alex's innocence. The bad guys are more credible as villains than perhaps any of the films in the franchise. They're nasty, bad people who at least have a motivation for and a clue about their actions. That said, their leader played by Fred Ward, was as cartoonish as they come, and had information that came out of nowhere. I just felt bad for any of these good actors who must have awakened from a coma and found themselves signed to this picture.
I'm running out of good things to say about the picture, so lets get to the DVD. The anamorphic transfer is excellent, with only some grain in effect shots marring an otherwise pristine image. Like the other films in the franchise, the mood and lighting is very dark, but the transfer almost always manages to keep up a high level of shadow detail, and blacks are almost uniformly dark and inky. The color palette is intentionally muted, with only red left to shine out brightly. These colors are accurately rendered, so that the reds stand out from the darkness or golden-hued light with great contrast. The image is very sharp, and the grain isn't as ever-present as with the first film, so this is actually the best transfer of the two.
The soundtrack has no such problems. Both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks are offered, and both are aggressive mixes that provide punch and presence to all channels. Directional pans are frequent and accurately placed. The music is again an industrial or alternative mix, this time with bands like Static-X, Kid Rock, Filter, and The Crystal Method. Expect your subwoofer to be pumping out the bass, though the music pumps lower and louder than the explosions. Dialogue was clear, though there are a couple places it gets a little thin and harder to understand. Still, both tracks are excellent, with the DTS getting a slight edge in imaging.
There is a decent collection of extras for fans of the film to peruse. Leading the parade is a feature length commentary track with Director Bharat Nalluri, Producer Jeff Most, Composer Marco Beltrami, Production Designer Maia Javan, and Eric Mabius. The commentary is not bad, especially if you forget which film they're talking about. They seem to have been recorded separately and edited together, and keep the information flowing without gaps. All areas of the film are adequately covered. A series of short featurettes follow, covering production design, an average promotional behind the scenes feature, makeup, and my favorite of the bunch: "Who's That Bird?" where we learn about the real crows involved and how they do those great shots with them. All the features are between two and eight minutes, and are value added for the disc. Finally, there are some DVD-ROM extras in the form of a screenplay viewer and weblinks. The extra content is a bit light for a "Collector's Series," but still very nice.
I know I've hidden my true feelings carefully so far, but now I have to say that I didn't like the film much. One Crow movie was unique, and interesting, and it's possible that the sequels could have even improved on it if they still had Brandon Lee and director Alex Proyas (Dark City). But they don't, and the substitutes are no substitute. Eric Mabius tried hard, and maybe did the best he could with what he had to work with, but it wasn't enough. Inevitably comparisons must be made between Brandon Lee and those who followed, and Mabius is no Lee. But the real culprit for the suckage level here is the writing, which has been the low point of all three in the franchise. Of course, the writers are so locked into a format they have little freedom. It has to be a straight and linear revenge story, there has to be a time when the crow gets hurt, and it's hard to keep up tension with an (usually) invulnerable hero. Still, the dialogue could be better, the information not come out of the blue to the villains, and the lead villain could be more believable.
Maybe I'm being too harsh on this one. It had its moments, and the worst thing I can really say is it wasn't as good as the first film. It just didn't have enough of those moments, and it wasn't as good as the first film.
Fans of The Crow will likely want to give this a rental at least. I don't think it measures up, but feel free to give it a try. Definitely rent before buying the whole box set if you haven't seen the sequels. This isn't even the worst of the three Crow films. Think about that. But if you like the film, certainly the transfer and terrific soundtracks, along with the extra content warrant a purchase.
Guilty of another needless sequel to sully the memory of the only really good movie in the franchise. Dimension is fully acquitted on their DVD presentation, however, and released, hopefully to do fewer sequels and more original work.
Review content copyright © 2001 Norman Short; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary Track
* DVD-ROM Content